Do you have a friend who makes you dig deep and delve and think, and come up with weird little sideways ideas of your own, which come as a surprise and which are such nonsense that you may hold to them for just five minutes? I know someone like that. I’ll call him Pugwash, because that’s not his name, to save his blushes.
Pugwash pops in maybe three or four times a week, sometimes just to sit, sometimes to play a song to me, sometimes to share a thought, sometimes to be cheered, and occasionally to rant. We talk and talk. It’s a sort of crumpled edgy sort of talking though, and it never lasts too long, or becomes too unguarded, because it isn’t fuelled by booze or the empty evening, it’s a snatched ten minutes here and a half hour there.
Because I think best when I’m writing, an awful lot of what I say aloud to Pugwash is tossed off tosh, unconsidered headlines, full of invisible exclamation marks and asterisks and back tracking to something we said earlier, or he said yesterday, and which he may or may not admit to. And what he says to me sometimes makes the same sort of slightly skew-wiff segway into questionable history. “That’s what you said!” followed by my explosion of mirth and “Oh, do give over, as if !”.
I love these conversations. They are truly bonkers.
He cannot say ‘God’ without adding ‘or whatever word you like to use’ and occasionally he will slip into an assumed grievance against Christianity, or religion, or creeds…. like the Sunday when I returned from church and he called across the road to me ‘You’ve been to your exclusive little club then?’
And there may have been times (!) when I’ve called him a mish-mash of airy-fairy quasi-Eastern do-goodery ideas…. or did I just think that? Ooops. Well, I’ve said it now.
But we forgive each other, Pugwash and me, because we’re both interested in turning over pebbles, to see what lies beneath and sometimes there’s a sparkling jewel and we crow over it for a while, pleased with each other, but sometimes the underside of our pebble turns out to be muddy and maggotty and we recoil, squealing in …what? Recognition?
I am the elder and so he should, by rights, look to me for wisdom, but there’s only a few weeks in it, and he’s a bloke, so he has the annoying inbred certainty of always being right. And – shush, whisper this bit – he teaches me a whole lot. I’m a very impatient person and my prayer is often ‘please help me to be patient, to be kinder, not to be so easily exasperated’ and while Pugwash enjoys the occasional rant, he is, at heart, a more tolerant person than I am. He is inclined to the left, while I am slightly to the right of Genghis Khan. OK, I’m miles to the right of my old chum Genghis.
Don’t you love the motley crew who make up your social life? I prayed for my melange of mates this morning, and a couple of hours later Pugwash came in with Mrs Pugwash (who is much much nicer than either of us) and I was again struck by how friendship enriches our lives. If I consider not just the different friends I have, but how those relationships work, I’m just bowled over by the variety of roles we all adopt with each other. With one, Pugwash, there is raging debate, laughter, indignation, emotion, fun. With another there is thoughtfulness, gentleness, wisdom. One is a paraclete (walking beside me) a teacher and wise mentor, another is a madcap who races on ahead, and yet another is a sweet little thorn-in-the-side. If a thorn can be sweet. One pulls me on, and another needs me to drag them along. There are those who are just a tad stalker-ish, those who are distant but intriguing, those who are (like me) grumpy and difficult. And together they are the texture of my life. The best and dearest manage to be a little bit of each variety.
There’s a much respected personality test and a load of people I know quote it often, so I did it yesterday. I’ve half-done it before but only half heartedly and only in order to prove it wrong (did I mention that I can be a bit contrary at times?) so this time I cleared my mind and concentrated, was totally honest and took it seriously.
The result completely amazed me. It’s so true it hurts. You think I’m going to tell you what the result was, don’t you? Well, I’m not.
It depresses me a bit to think that we can all be ‘put’ into one of 16 personality types. And even though the results amazed and impressed me, I choose to believe that we are all a lot more complicated, complex and unknowable than any rotten old test can ever determine. So there.
My blog yesterday, about what may have made me a writer, struck a chord with Pugwash and today he explored the possibility that without his difficult childhood he would not have become the creative musician he undoubtedly is. And just as my blog wondered if my writing was coming to an end, Pugwash is wondering if his music has run its course. Here we are, two (ahem) mature people, one just turned 70 and one about to, washed up on the western shores of the UK, asking the same questions about our lives, often coming to completely opposing conclusions, but on the way we are creating harmony and rhythm and laughter.
Most of all laughter.
I thank God for friends, for laughter, and for Pugwash.